Here is a little something to chew over, something few know about, simply because Bibles and commentaries fail to reveal the facts.
Jeremiah uses a cryptogram four times in his writings, twice in chapter 25, and twice in chapter 51. Here are the details.
Jer.25:25-26. “All the kings of Zimri, and all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes, and all the kings of the north, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world which are upon the face of the earth; and the king of Sheshak shall drink after them.”
Two words are cryptic in these verses. Zimri and Sheshak. Expositors tell us that Zimri is Elam, and Sheshak isBabel. Before commenting on this, let’s have a look at the other pair in chapter 51.
Jer.51:1. “Thus says the Lord, Behold I will raise up against Babylon, and against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, a destroying wind.”
Jer.51:41 “How is Sheshak taken! And how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! How is Babylonbecome an astonishment among the nations!”
The cryptic words in verse 1 are “in the midst of them that rise up against me”, which should read Kesedim (in other words, the Chaldeans), and in verse 41 we have Sheshak once again for Babel.
Now for a bit of analysis. The cipher has been explained by the use of the word ATBASH. This word makes use of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. A is for Aleph, T for Tau, B for Beth, and SH for Shin. What happens is that a word likeBabel is changed around, made back to front, so to speak, by exchanging letters at the beginning of the alphabet with those at the end. Hence ATBASH, where A (the first letter) becomes T (the last letter); B (the second letter) becomes SH, (the last but one.)
So with regard to Babel, the Hebrew reads B-B-L, and this becomes SH-SH-K, in other words Sheshak. L is in the middle of the alphabet, next to K, causing this exchange.
Zimri (which scholars say should read Zimchi) is Atbash for Elam. And “in the midst of them that rise up against me” reads Lev-Kamai in Hebrew, Atbash for Kesedim.
So much for the workings of the cryptogram. I can remember that when I was a small boy of twelve, I used to use the self-same device to send little messages to my form-mate. A became Z, B became Y, and so on. We were able to communicate secretly, and enjoyed the fun. It was a simple device, and so was that used by Jeremiah.
So why did he do it? Certainly there was no confusion of meaning because Babylon is mentioned in the same verses as Sheshak. Nothing was being hidden from view. It didn’t take much effort to crack the code. So why did he use it at all? This has perplexed scholars, and according to the Bible encyclopaedias I possess, several possibilities are presented. However, I feel that they all fall short because there is a simple answer. I stumbled on it almost by accident.
In Isaiah 5:20-23 we read, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes . . . who justify the wicked for reward, and steal the righteousness of the righteous from him.”
The Lord is angry with all those who place things back to front. This is a sure sign of Babylonianism. Hence Jeremiah turns their own names round to show his contempt for their evil practices. No wonder the Lord says, Come out of her my people. (Rev.18:4)
How did Elijah pray, before calling down fire from heaven at Carmel? “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You are turning their heart back again.” After the fire fell, the people said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” (1 Kings 18:37-39) The people had become deadlocked into a state of mind that we call “sitting on the fence.” There was no antithesis. “They answered him [Elijah] not a word.” (Verse 21) This was an example of Babylonianism. That is why Elijah wanted God to “turn their heart back again.” Turn the heart in the right direction.
Isaiah had something useful to record in this setting. The Lord spoke to him, saying, “Thus says the Lord, . . . who frustrates the tokens of liars, and makes diviners mad, and turns [their so-called] wise men backwards, making their knowledge foolish.” (44:24-25) Later in his record, he speaks about the grievous evils inflicting the people of Israel. Amongst other things, he says that, “Judgment is turned away backwards, and justice stands afar off, because truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” (59:14) The concept of things being back-to-front is clearly manifested.
Jeremiah has the same message to deliver. “The Lord said, Obey my voice, and I will be your God and you shall be my people, . . . but they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and imaginations of their evil heart, and went backwards and not forwards.” (8:23-24) And again, “You have forsaken me, says the Lord. You are gone backwards, therefore I will stretch out my hand against you.” (15:6)
If God’s people persist in making evil look like good, by disobeying God’s commandments, then it makes our Lord’s statement look all the more meaningful, when He said, “Many that are first shall be last, and the last first.” (Matt.19:30, Mk.10:31, Luke 13:30) Those who twist righteousness by making alternative reality, or adopt the essence of Babylonianism by copying the high and mighty ways of the scarlet woman, who said, “I shall reign a queen forever,” (Rev.18:7, Isa.47:7) are likely to come unstuck sooner or later. The Lord will say “I know you not,”because “If any man desires to be first, let him become last of all, and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) To walk towards Jerusalem whilst facing the opposite direction, having Babylon in view, is twisting righteousness. Having reached Jerusalem, and being told that he belongs in Babylon seems like poetic justice. Believing himself to be one of the first, he finds himself one of the last. This is difficult to write about, simply because it twists the mind even to contemplate the mental processes involved.
One last sobering thought. People who practise black magic are known to turn sacred things back to front. The Lord’s prayer is read backwards. Karl Marx, who became a Satanist, used the name Oulanem, which is Emanuel backwards. Perhaps they have learned that to do so gives them power from the Devil. If so, then it should cause God’s children to stop and assess their lives in accordance with God’s laws, in case there might be found some element of backwards working, something twisted out of true, something that would cause dark powers to get a handle on one’s life.